The Sweat of God and the Laugh of Death

June 14, 2008
By Alexandra Piunti, San Jose, CA

God laughs and puts his arm around Death’s muscular back. He holds his left hand out, thumb flexed backwards, index finger upright, the others loosely pointing towards his palm, as he does in stained glass windows and when gesturing for a bartender. He orders another round, “On me.” Next round, Death will pay. There will be many more rounds.

As the night passes unnoticed, and day emerges stripped, bare, and undressed, Death and God are looking drunk but happier. God’s usually clay-smoothed cheeks are flushed and small bubbles of sweat have him glowing. His brown skin melts his eyes, soft eyes marred by a thin layer of sky, eyes that roll slightly with each word he slurs. Death, on the contrary, is better equipped for drunkenness, watching himself from afar.

He sees his bony, pale face with two watercolor streaks of pink just below each jutting cheekbone. In this half-hearted yellow light his crystal blue eyes are an inky sapphire on colored clouds — musical, almost — and he watches himself throw back his strong jaw with laughter. His smile lingers even after he’s closed his mouth, until his face slackens when an imaginary rain washes away his emotion and packs it inside a cardboard box, which is put on a train to nowhere.

Nowhere has to end somewhere, and eventually, somewhere in rural England, it will be unloaded by a worker in a grease-stained white shirt and torn jeans with duct tape on the seams, who will look up to the pink and grey sky in the early morning, holding Death’s emotions in a brown box, thinking, What now?

Death keeps on watching himself. He flips his head a bit, sending his white blond hair that is sticky with salty sweat and the sinful air of the bar falling back on his face. He and God ignore the fight to their left. Tomorrow, the man with the stab wound will be visited by either God or Death, depending on who is in the area, but right now God and Death are drunk and on off-hours and no business will get done until they are sober.

Two shots later God will pass out, skin still sweating, shining, raining, and Death will leave God alone in the bar, chuckling to himself as he stumbles out, because hours later, when the day is clothed and dying souls crowd the universe, God, filled with a forced, half-hearted regret, will wake up, wash his face, and return to perfection. Next Thursday they will meet again and drink some more. God, kind as he is, will pick up the tab.

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